AFP
Last updated: 16 October, 2013

Bulgaria to curb Syrian influx with border fence

Bulgaria said Wednesday it plans to build a fence on its southeastern border with Turkey to limit the number of illegal Syrian immigrants entering the country and creating a refugee crisis.

Deputy Interior Minister Vasil Marinov said the ministry had proposed building a 30 kilometre (19 mile) long, three metre (10 feet) tall barrier in the mountainous region of Elhovo.

“Nearly 85 percent of the illegal border trespassers from Turkey pass through Elhovo,” he told journalists, adding that this was the most difficult section of the 259 kilometre border with Turkey to control.

The building of the fence will cost about five million leva (2.6 million euros, $3.4 million), he said, without providing a timeline for its completion.

Bulgaria has been overwhelmed by an influx of illegal immigrants overflowing from neighbouring Turkey, the first port of call for many fleeing war-torn Syria.

Over 6,800 foreigners — 70 percent of them Syrian — have entered Bulgaria illegally since the beginning of this year, border police data has shown, while lengthy procedures have kept most immigrants inside crammed reception centres.

So far, the country’s severely understaffed refugee agency has only granted refugee status to 17 people while another 965 have received humanitarian status that allows them to leave the shelters but not the country.

Faced with a humanitarian crisis, the European Union’s poorest member has kept opening new shelters and promised to speed up the procedures. It has also demanded financial aid from the bloc and several international organisations.